Continuing with Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’, we hear more from the Cork radio scene in 1983 and also learn about the Limerick pirates. The hour begins with a visit to the 10 kW South Coast Radio AM transmitter site in Cork in the company of John Lewis. That is followed by a visit to ERI and an interview with veteran broadcaster Don Allen. There is also a rare insight into the earliest days of the Cork pirates in an interview with Con McParland. Tipler then continues to Limerick where he calls into two local stations, Big L and Raidió Luimní. The episode concludes with interviews with Mike Richardson of Big L and the popular John ‘the Man’ Frawley of Raidió Luimní.
This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
Twiggs FM was a short-lived radio station broadcasting from the Galway suburb of Salthill for about six months in 1987 and 1988. It was set up in August 1987 and backed by two returned emigrant Galway businessmen who had purchased the Eglinton Hotel on Salthill promenade. According to an Anoraks UK Weekly Report from October 1987, Mike Richardson, formerly of Big L Radio in Limerick and Horizon Radio in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, was also involved.
The hotel was a busy entertainment venue with a large 1,500-capacity nightclub called Twiggs and a popular student venue in the basement. The backers’ idea was to create a professional station to advertise their business interests as well as other services. A professional studio was installed on the first floor overlooking Galway Bay and hired pirate operators from Dublin, including Alan Russell (who had set up an earlier Galway station Atlantic Sound) and Roland Burke (RIP) to run Twiggs FM. The station regularly broadcast gigs from the nightclub and DJs were paid for radio shift work and topped up their income with gigs at the Twiggs venue and other clubs run by the owners. Presenters included Roland Burke, Alan Russell, Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly), Robert Ashley, Shane Martin and Daragh Murphy as well as student DJs and guest DJs from Dublin. In January 1988 it was taken over by Mike Richardson and renamed West Coast Radio but the station closed by March because of the backers’ impatience with poor advertising revenue.
Twiggs FM broadcast on 98.5 from Salthill and later added an additional relay on 100.1 in the city. This recording is an undated aircheck of two shows by Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) in the autumn/winter of 1987. The first is from a Thursday at about 1645 and the second from Friday at 1515. There was a definite student vibe to the station, with notices from the Law Society at University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway) and reference to a programme by the Regional Technical College (now Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology). There’s also a competition to win a bale of briquettes so the Galway winter must have been approaching! Thanks to Ciaran for this recording and additional background information.
WRKY Rocky 103 broadcast from Co. Kerry under different guises and from different locations. It was launched in September 1984 in Killarney on 103.2 FM with a repeater to the south in Farranfore on 97.2 FM. WRKY emerged from Mike Richardson’s popular Big L Radio in Limerick which closed in April 1985. In 1986 WRKY was hit by scandal when £10,000 raised as part of the global Sport Aid initiative went missing along with one of its presenters. In September Phoenix magazine reported that staff at WRKY walked out after demanding a pay rise from station owner Donal O’Doherty, having been offered more money by another local businessman planning to set up a rival, unnamed station.
Horizon Radio was a spin-off of WRKY set up in June 1986 by Mike Richardson and Francis Jones. It began in Killorglin but later moved to a hotel near Tralee before closing in 1987. Richardson ran a station called Rocky 103 from Listowel in north Kerry in 1988. Thanks to Ian Biggar, Liam Byrne and Martin Ryan for additional information.
This recording from 103 FM from 1.03pm was made on Friday the 7th of June 1985. The presenter is unidentified but sports news is read by Vincent Casey and news is read by Mary O’Sullivan at 1.30pm. The format is a mixture of pop, Irish showband and country and there are community notices and ads for local traders. The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. Further jingles can be heard below.
In this interview, Paul Kelly remembers working as a presenter on pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick in 1987 and 1988. He began at Radio Clare in Ennis in 1987 and recalls the very basic studio and transmitter set-up before better equipment was installed with the assistance of Big L in Limerick. Paul then moved on to Limerick city stations Radio Munster and the more formatted Hits 954. He also discusses the bandscans that he did in Limerick in the final weeks and days of the pirates in December 1988. The interviewer is Mary Ryan.
‘Limerick a Radio City’ documents the history and development of radio in limerick city, from the ground-breaking broadcasts of Jim O’Carroll in the 1930s, the pirate heyday of the 70s and 80s, to the current licensed stations that exist there today.
The story is told by the pirates themselves most of whom progressed to legal licensed stations and some who still currently work in the licensed radio industry. Their anecdotal accounts are both factual as well as entertaining, as they describe the characters and incidents, especially throughout the 70s and 80s pirate era. Brushes with the law, the freedom and fun of alternative radio, the flamboyant talent and the positive impact pirate radio had on modern broadcasting, ‘Limerick a Radio City’ has got it all.